What’s the best Mac upgrade for you?

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    Posted: 04 January 2013 10:53 AM

    Just because your Mac is a little slow doesn’t mean you have to buy a new one, well, unless you have a Mac that can’t be upgraded. If you can crack open your Mac, what’s your favorite upgrade for boosting performance?

         
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    Posted: 04 January 2013 10:55 AM #1

    My first upgrade is always RAM. Now that SSD drives are more affordable, that’s my second upgrade choice.

         
  • Posted: 04 January 2013 11:09 AM #2

    I have a late ‘09 iMac… it’s time to breath some new life into it, so I may end up replacing the SuperDrive with an SSD and creating a FusionDrive. This should help speed up performance and I’ll keep using it until the Mac mini can surpass it in performance. Once that happens, I’ll just buy a Mac mini and use my iMac as a display for it and as a media server.

         
  • Posted: 04 January 2013 11:38 AM #3

    Jeff Gamet - 04 January 2013 10:55 AM

    My first upgrade is always RAM. Now that SSD drives are more affordable, that’s my second upgrade choice.


    That’s the conventional wisdom, Jeff.  But that’s based mostly on cost over need.
    I’d recommend using Activity Monitor to pay attention to how much RAM your system needs in your typical use. The biggest number to pay attention to is “Page outs”. Page outs happen when your system needs to retrieve something from the swap file (on your hard drive) that it stored there.
    I don’t know all about how it decides to “Page in” (store the data on disk), but if it pages in and never needs to retrieve it, I don’t think you’re really hurting your performance.
    We also need to keep in mind how much performance you will get from an SSD. It’s not a small upgrade. Even if you are paging out a fair amount, the performance of the page outs will increase significantly anyway.

    To put it another way, If you upgrade RAM, you’ll only see a difference when you’re really using it all up. By upgrading to an SSD, you’re going to get a significant increase in performance with just about every app and process that loads (including your OS) on your system

    So if you’re not seeing 100’s of megabytes or even a gigabyte or more of Page Outs, I’d definitely go with an SSD over RAM. 

    Hope this helps.

     

         
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    Posted: 04 January 2013 11:50 AM #4

    brett_x - 04 January 2013 11:38 AM
    Jeff Gamet - 04 January 2013 10:55 AM

    My first upgrade is always RAM. Now that SSD drives are more affordable, that’s my second upgrade choice.

    To put it another way, If you upgrade RAM, you’ll only see a difference when you’re really using it all up.

    Very nice summation.
    In my case I have a Summer ‘12 MacBook Pro. Originally it was fine with the 4Gb RAM from Apple. In the last couple of months I’ve started running multiple virtual machines at the same time. Win7 really needs 4 all for itself. Linux Mint needs a couple. OS-X needs four. I looked at the options. 16Gb was only a few bucks more than 8Gb so I’m maxing the little beast out. The package from OWC should arrive next week and then blammo, gobs o’ RAM.

    In another year I’ll likely update to an SSD but there’s no hurry on that.

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  • Posted: 08 January 2013 12:51 PM #5

    In the past I’ve always gone the RAM route first too.  But now that the latest Mac’s are coming with 4 to 8GB RAM pre-installed, depending on how it’s going to be used that may not be an automatic upgrade anymore.

    It’s long been presumed that the slowest part of modern computers has been the hard drive and all the end-user feedback I’ve heard about SSD’s have resoundingly confirmed that.  I recently came across a late 2007 Mac mini with 2GB of RAM and a mere 8GB of hard drive.  Since I was planning on using this as a dedicated EyeTV station, I upped the RAM to the most it could take (only 4GB on this model) and found a Seagate 500GB hybrid drive on Amazon for only $70.  I was stoked about this because it would be my first experience with a hybrid drive or SSD of any kind. 

    It’s hard to say how much of a difference either upgrade made because I didn’t really use the machine as-it-was before I made the upgrades.  And those particular upgrades don’t seem to affect Geekbench scores.  But for a 5+ year Mac I’ve been impressed with how ‘spiffy’ the whole machine feels, particularly Finder tasks.  My 3+ year old iMac doesn’t even feel this fast, but then again there’s always a lot more things running on it.

    So sar far so good for the hybrid drive.  I’d love a DIY fusion drive for my iMac but for now it appears it’s only possible on a 2012 Mac Mini.

         
  • Posted: 09 January 2013 08:07 AM #6

    I have a 2008 MacBook Unibody with 4GB of RAM and the stock 160GB HDD.

    Since I know that, contrary to what Apple says, I can upgrade it to 8GB of RAM I think I’ll do it sooner or later, but first of all I’m getting a nice SSD to boost the overall reaction of the system. Since I don’t really need raw CPU power, in the day to day use I think a SSD is the best upgrade possibile for an older machine.

    Cheers